DECONSTRUCTING 21ST CENTURY FARMING IN FRYSLAN
By Marleen Andela - May 2018
The way that farms are managed in Fryslan is exemplary for 21st century economical thinking, which includes a linear mindset with a focus on maximizing profits. The landscape is a mirror of this mindset. With this project, I want to investigate if it is possible to design a new economic logic that will allow farms to form new relations with their environment. I want to do this by using methods used in computer coding to map out potential organization structures which could cause more diverse deployment of the landscape, and more socio-economical diversity.
STEP 1: FINDING A NEW, NON LINEAR LOGIC
USING DATA-FLOW PROGRAMMING AS A TOOL FOR RESEARCHING THE EMBEDDED POTENTIAL OF A FARM.
What struck me, by visiting local farmers, is how much similarity there is between computer coding and the way that farmers describe their practice.
Here’s a pseudo code of what a farmer might say:
If(protein to fiber ratio in the grass is optimal)
The system is forcing farmers to have this linear approach, which does not always necessarily match with the hopes and dreams of the farmers themselves. Tradition and love for the profession are in contrast to the narrow mindset that is needed to in order to increase efficiency. As I found out, there is a lot discontent there, because the exploitation of natural resources is something that the farmers are often regarded to be the cause of, although this is really realistic since the dynamic of the economic system is not something they are responsible for. There is a lot of unawareness in society about the reality of farmers. At the same time, it is also hard for farmers to change, since they are literally stuck in this system of efficiency. For example, if you want to become an ecological farmer, coorperations only allow you to become a member if you stop using artificial fertelizers for a period of 3 years. But as it takes quite an amount of money to overlap this period, this is not a good choiche for many farmers.
For this project I want to develop a working method that is trying to hack into to the economic reality of farmers, and that offers new perspectives in finding approaches that could offer more opportunities for change. I figured that if farmers are so used to thinking like programmers, it could be interesting to find out what else is possible with that. I want to organize a workshop in collaboration with diary farmers, and hackers/ artistic researchers like myself, to prototype a systems thinking method that uses methods used in computer-coding as a mapping tool and to start a dialogue about how to regain some control over the system. Methods that could be explored could be: The graph map, the loop, object oriented programming, flow based programming, the merkletree and the blockchain.
STEP 2: FACING FORWARD BY FACING BACKWARD
looking back at history through the lens of today’s emerging technologies.As Big Data and Machine Learning are getting more and more important in our economy, we could be be facing our lives looking back on history more often, to look for some solace. To (re)connect to our history and things that might have gone lost underway in technological progress. Another part of this project will be about looking back at history through the lens of today’s emerging technologies. Could we make an executable for Frisian farming history using a blockchain(-derived) technology?
Frisian diary farmers used to be really good in self governance. Fryslan has the highest density in village's in Europe. This fact indicates that farmers in Fryslan where able to share their wealth with the community. One farm could employ about 10 to 15 people, having around 50 people depending on it. It was a economic system that thrived on mutual interest, based on common grounds. Frisian farmers where the inventors of the cooperation model, and the Frisian word for farm, namely is ‘ Pleats’, which translates to place, also reflects the important function they had for the community. Of course post war industrialization caused this systems to collapse as farmers lost their public function as employers. Economics in the villages is now not related to farming anymore.
Part of the project would involve investigating which kind of recipe’s where used for this rich socio-economic climate from about 100/150 years ago. Because this interconnected systems are basically comparable to what P2P networked organizations look like, or DAO’s on the blockchain. What would an algorithm of the Frisian socio-economic system dating from a 150 ago look like? Could we make an executable for that?
The biggest endeavor of this project is finding new approaches for community building and leadership. This project is not primarly about technology, but it uses technology as a metaphor for building a culture of self-governance. The study might as well conclude that we need an approach that is more backward and less mediated by technology. And more anarchistic for that matter.
Not defined yet.
A next phase could involve: Making a document of the history of farming in the Netherlands. A map of the ecosystem and the economic system at different stages in history. The outcome could be a book, document or a film. It could be interesting take the family histories of the farmer participating in tha project as a guideline for this.